I have both degrees in engineering and economics and pursued careers in both. I thus see many community issues from both perspectives: what things cost to design and build and whether the public expenditure is needed on a cost/benefit basis.
I am a skeptic of publicly funded bicycle paths, and during my travels throughout my community (almost daily by car), I annually count the number of active bicycles I observe using the dedicated Chan/Chaska paths. Counting for 15 years, I first encountered double YTD (Year To Date) digits (over nine cumulatively) by June in 2016 and only 17 thus far this year! I have asked informally of the Chan city technical staff what engineering and economic criteria have been used to justify building more paths, with no response.
I returned September from an 8,000 mile, three-week, vacation to the United States northwest (thus while kids going to school weekdays) and counted the following active bicyclists (both on paths and not on paths): Oregon 48, Idaho 37, Wyoming 9, Montana 0, North Dakota 0, Nebraska 0, Iowa 0, and Minnesota 0. Of course Oregon is vocal about being green, so I assume the “two score and eight” count is embarrassing. There seems to be little use for bicycle paths in those states (100± headcount over three weeks).
As an engineer I always had to elucidate design criteria, so I would hope that traffic head counts, as are done for designing roads for automobiles, would be a primary source of demonstrating an engineering need for separate paths. (I am not critical of half-lanes and shoulder spaces for bikes.) I have not in my town encountered such data (if it exists).
As a resident and taxpayer, I would wish to be given a publicly perused acknowledgement of the justification for this cost to my fellow citizens of Chanhassen (and Chaska for that matter) for stand-alone bicycle paths.
Some who have heard my complaints have suggested the expenditure is justified because some pedestrians use them and are functionally sidewalks. If so, then a cheaper design should be adopted, as pedestrians are less destructive to pavements.
I have also been told that federal subsidies for local roads obligate multi-user facilities, yet the funding for city streets need not be federally funded — right? Bells and whistles are just that — bells and whistles.
Dr. Edward N. Tipton